Policy Perspective on Reconciliation – My Placement at Indigenous Services Canada

Policy Perspective on Reconciliation – My Placement at Indigenous Services Canada

Mariela Gutierrez Olivares is an IP Innovation Clinic Fellow and a 3L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. This article was written as a requirement for Prof. Pina D’Agostino’s IP Intensive Program.

The parts of my law school journey I have most enjoyed have been the opportunities for hands-on learning such as Osgoode’s IP Innovation Clinic and mooting experiences. The IP and Technology Intensive stood out to me as a unique opportunity for additional hands-on learning. I am pleased to share that my placement at Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) was a valuable learning opportunity which has made a lasting impact on my career trajectory.

Truthfully before I learned I would be completing my placement at ISC I did not know much about the organization. However, I was immediately intrigued upon learning about ISC’s mission:

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) works collaboratively with partners to improve access to high quality services for First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Our vision is to support and empower Indigenous peoples to independently deliver services and address the socio-economic conditions in their communities.

I was excited to see what the ISC’s work is like, given their distinct and obsolete mission. This extraordinary mandate resonated deeply with me and my interest in social justice, however it was not immediately obvious that type of work I might expect to do or witness at ISC.

My placement was on the Innovation Team, under the Partnerships and Innovation Directorate in the Evaluation and Policy Redesign Branch. The Department of Indigenous Services Act, mandates ISC to take an innovative approach to policies and programs with aim of implementing a gradual transfer of services to Indigenous organizations. To this effect, the Partnerships and Innovation Directorate oversees a variety of different projects, including a strategic partnership fund, a results-based innovation network, international collaboration arrangements, efforts to eliminate anti-Indigenous racism, and a variety of other projects with specific Indigenous communities.

While my internship experience was virtual, team members from different regions throughout Canada made me feel welcome. I was invited to join team meetings where I was able to become well acquainted with the team’s ongoing projects. In addition, I was also invited to meet with ISC staff outside of the Directorate, staff in other government departments, and partners at Indigenous organizations. I also received plenty of support as I carried out research on data governance and intellectual property. Though I started my placement with little knowledge about ISC and the services they deliver, I was able to gain a broad understanding of the various projects the team is engaged in and found myself learning a great deal about the complexities of government work in particular as it relates to the delivery of services for Indigenous communities. Although I completed my placement remotely, I felt like a valued member of the team. Everyone at ISC was very generous with their time and willing to help me.

My placement gave me an opportunity to gain exposure to a unique government work setting and a direct look at how policy is enacted to advance department goals. Much of my law school courses have been focused on the theoretical underpinnings of law and how it is developed and interpreted in the courts. Though policy considerations are certainly present in the legal curriculum, we rarely consider what happens to policies as they are enacted and refined over time. This is precisely what I had a chance to witness at ISC. As Canada strives to advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities, departments like ISC have the tall order to delivery critical services and build (or re-build) relationships with Indigenous Peoples in Canada with a view toward transfer of services.

I had an amazing time during my placement with the Innovation Team at Indigenous Services Canada. I was deeply impacted by my experience, as witnessing the dedication of the team and their commitment to the department mission inspired me to consider a career in public service. I firmly believe my work as an intern has helped me strengthen my research, writing, and advocacy skills. My time in the IP and Technology Intensive has enriched my law school journey in a way that I did not imagine possible, and I am deeply grateful for that.